"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared
in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2: 9-10
Isn't is funny..
What would happen if someone bought a lottery ticket for you for Christmas and it turned out to be the winning ticket in the weekly Powerball drawing? I know, you would thank the lottery board but turn down the money because you hadn't earned it and wouldn't really feel right about taking all that free money. Right?
You would call in sick Monday morning and be on the road to Tallahassee (or wherever your lottery office is) to collect your winnings. You might not just call in sick - you might call in rich! On the other hand, you might just keep it quiet and hire an attorney to collect your winnings, not wanting anyone to know. Relatives coming out of the woodwork and all that...
I've never heard of anyone turning down money from the lottery - ever!
So, why is it that we would eagerly accept money we did not earn but we continue to try to 'earn' grace and forgiveness?
Look at the contrast between the two verses in the way they describe good works. There is a clear distinction there. Verse 9 says we were not saved by works. We are sometimes quick to take credit for things we really didn't have a part in, aren't we? Good deeds, food taken to the neighbors, going to church every time the doors are open, giving money to charities, volunteering...all good works. None of them able to save our souls.
Verse 10 says that although we were not saved by good works, we were created to do them. Not saved to do them, but created for them. God planned ahead for us to do good things.It has been his plan from the beginning. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13:
"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God."
Salvation is a gift from God. So are good works and finding satisfaction in what we do. We just need to be careful that we don't confuse the two and have the mindset that we are somehow earning salvation by doing good.
It is a subtle thing, this thought process. We find ourselves sometimes keeping score, tallying up all of our good deeds. It's a dangerous trap! Every day we need to make a clear distinction between what God has done for us -SALVATION - and what he calls us to do - GOOD WORKS.
Let's get personal for a minute. Think about the good works in your life. Do you get satisfaction and a good feeling from doing them? That is fine and as it should be. Reread the verse above if you're having a problem with that.
On the other hand, do you sometimes start to think that you're better than someone else or more 'spiritual' than someone else because of what you are doing? Be honest. No one wants to admit to that little bit of arrogant thinking, but we've all been there.
The best way to keep things straight in your head and your heart is to continuously pray and thank God for the gift of forgiveness and salvation, and for the privilege of serving him. Take a minute now and list those 'good works'. Now give them back to God. Thank him for the opportunities you have every day to serve him by your good works, and through them to show the love of God to others.
Nothing keeps our perspective straight like regular conversation with the Source of grace and good works.
Are you still trying to earn your salvation? There is great freedom in knowing that you can't. Let that go, and follow the advice of Solomon...
be happy...do good...and find satisfaction in all you do
It's better than the winning lottery ticket any day of the week!